BY CHARLOTTE GRIEVE
A group of Inner Western Sydney residents have banded together to launch a campaign targeting the “unnecessary” plastic wrapping of their local newspaper, the Inner West Courier.
The campaign titled “Unwrap the Inner West Courier” (UTIWC) has attracted a passionate response from the community since going live in March. With a 222 strong following on the campaign Facebook page, the group launched a change.org petition just over a month ago that already has 388 signatories.
“We’ve been really amazed by how many people have got behind us and said yes I’d love to see it unwrapped. It’s a surprisingly passionate community who want to see the paper plastic free,” said Neva Frecheville, a spokesperson for the campaign.
According to UTIWC’s petition, “Sydney’s landfill is almost full” and with new reports of over 8 million tons of plastic being dumped into our oceans each year, plastic wastage is becoming a leading environmental concern.
Every week, News Corp wraps more than 80,000 Inner West Couriers in plastic, amounting to more than 4 million pieces of plastic each year.
“You could cover Tasmania with a year’s worth of plastic used to wrap the Inner West Courier,” said Ms Frecheville.
Not only does the plastic fail to protect the paper from the rain, plastic-wrapped couriers are a nightmare to recycle.
“Once they’re left outside for a couple of days they are essentially a soggy mess of paper wrapped in plastic, you can’t really recycle the paper when it’s in that state,” Ms Frecheville told City Hub.
Regardless of the rain, many people don’t want the Inner West Courier delivered to their home, resulting in thousands of plastic-covered copies going to waste each week.
“We were quite surprised to find out how many people actually would rather not receive it but that’s not the aim of our campaign,” said Ms Frecheville.
These are the reasons that the community campaign is pushing for both the paper to be unwrapped and delivered in a more effective way.
“Regular mail isn’t plastic wrapped – people’s letter boxes keep it dry when it rains. Why doesn’t the Inner West Courier just fold their mag so they can pop it in people’s mailboxes?” said Jessie Mawson, an Inner West resident.
The News Corp editor, Catherine Zuill, has defended the newspaper’s use of plastic, claiming they have been looking into the use of biodegradable plastic as an alternative.
“The company is looking at using biodegradable plastic that meets Australian industry standards – they will not settle for anything less which is why it is taking a bit longer than hoped,” she said.
However, a new report from the United Nations has said that these plastics do little, if anything, to protect the planet.
“The problem with biodegradable plastic is that it only really degrades once it reaches 50 degrees Celsius or more, which obviously is not the average environment. This plastic is not the way forward,” said Ms Frecheville.
Members of UTIWC and the community reject this alternative, claiming that News Corp have a number of free papers that don’t use plastic wrapping.
“We know that it can happen. They [News Corp] also do the Manly Daily, which is another free paper, and they never wrap it. So we know that they can have papers that are unwrapped. We know that they will shift,” Ms Frecheville told City Hub.
Mounting pressure by the community campaign is already showing results. In the middle weeks of May, the Inner West Courier was unwrapped for two consecutive weeks. Heavy storms resulted in re-wrapping but this week, the Inner West Courier is unwrapped once again.
One resident revealed that the Southern Courier has followed suit, “A huge thank you to the unwrap crew. Your campaign must be having a real impact as look what I found in the front yard this morning, yes the Southern Courier unwrapped!” wrote Ian Lisser.
The group is pleased with the results but is seeking confirmation of a longer term commitment from News Corp and Catherine Zuill to permanately unwrap the paper.